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Rabbi's Blog

The Rabbi's thoughts culled from the "word from the Rabbi" in his weekly email

Changing Others

At the head of all understanding – is realizing what is and what cannot be, and the reassuring of what is not in our power to change. -Solomon ibn Gabirol

G-d, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, The courage to change the things I can, And wisdom to know the difference. - Reinhold Niebuhr/Alcoholics Anonymous

Can you change another person?

Many people around the world are preparing their new year’s resolutions. 36% will break their resolution before the end of January. (Then they come to the Soul Maps Course on January 30th to learn how to keep resolutions click here for more). It got me thinking, how many resolutions are about changing someone else? Is it possible to change someone else? If yes, how?

For example: Let’s say you want to bring people closer to Torah? “Hillel said: Be of the students of Aaron, loving peace and pursuing peace, loving people and bringing them closer to Torah” (avot 1:5).

What is Hillel saying? He is saying you ca not change someone else. You can encourage, teach and educate. How? By being nice and being happy, by loving peace and pursuing peace, by loving people. When these people see that you love them for who they are, and they see that you are close to Torah, which causes you to be more loving, then they will check it out and become closer to Torah as well.

Please join us for the monthly Minyan. Shabbos morning 9:30 am

Have a wonderful Shabbos, 

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

True Leaders

In the first parsha of the Book of Shemot (“Names”), which is also called Shemot, the Egyptians enslave the Israelites.  The Pharaoh commands the Jewish midwives, Shifra and Puah, to kill all the Jewish boys.  Facing the challenge of exile, they choose to do what G-d wants, and reject the evil dictator's decree.  The Torah says that they and their descendants are rewarded for their loyalty to G-d.

Moses is born to Amram and Yocheved, a Levite family.  Because of the Pharoh’s decree to throw all of the infant boys into the Nile River, Moses’s mother and sister, Miriam, place Moses on the waters of the Nile, tucked safely in a reed basket. The daughter of the Pharaoh, Batya (“Bat-Ya” daughter of G-d; who converts to Judaism), reaches out and draws Moses out of the water.  She immediately sees that he is a Jewish baby but she chooses to live according to her principles and saves him from the unjust edict. Miriam who was watching, offers Batya the hire of her nursing mother, Yocheved, as a nurse-maid for the baby. Batya then raises him as her own son in the palace of the Pharaoh.  

Moses goes out and sees an Egyptian beating Jew and, after a moment of consideration, kills the Egyptian, thereby doing his first act of protecting his people from the enemies outside. On the next day Moses sees two Jews fighting and he intervenes, thereby doing his first act of bringing unity among his own people.

When it was discovered that he had killed the Egyptian, Moses escapes to Midian where he marries and becomes a shepherd. He protects his flock with sensitivity and watchfulness.

Moses sees a burning bush and turns to it. G-d is prepared to redeem the Jewish people and to bring them to their purpose in His plan. At the burning bush, G-d gives Moses his mission to become the leader of the Jewish people, to help save them from the Egyptian exile, to bring them out of bondage, and to go to Mt Sinai to receive the Torah. He is then to guide them in serving G-d on the way to the land of Israel.

Moses, and his brother Aaron, go to the Pharaoh bringing G-d’s message:“Let my people go so that they may serve Me.' Pharaoh is not interested in letting his slaves go free, nor is he interested in meeting a G-d that is beyond nature. The Pharaoh considers himself a god and cannot relate to anything beyond his own will.  He tells Moses and Aaron to ‘mind their own business.’  The Pharaoh is the root of that kind of thinking which is so different than the way that Jews are to think. 

In this parsha we meet true leaders, Shifra and Puah, Miriam, Batya, and Moses.  Each one transcends his egocentricity, rejects the desires of the reigning despot and ignores concerns for individual safety.  Not one of them ‘minds his business,’ which would allow harm to come to his people.

We are now in the final exile. The challenges of exile can bring out the deep inner-identity of who we really are. Certainly, each of us is capable of being a leader in whatever life situation we find ourselves. We are here to live with integrity.  It is our role to make the world a better place. Each of us can ask what G-d wants us to do, and then go beyond our instinctive nature and  desires, in order to act in a way that fulfills our purpose as individuals and as a people.

An Ode To Women

I can tell you, Fraida is better at raising children than I am! Women, in general, are referred to in Jewish thought as theAkeres Habayis, the mainstay of the home. A mother is usually more willing to make sacrifices on behalf of her children than a father.

We see this when Yaakov (Jacob) asks Yosef (Joseph) to bury him in Israel, in the place reserved for the burial of the Jewish patriarchs and matriarchs . Jacob says to Joseph, "If I have now found favor in your eyes, … do not bury me now in Egypt. …As for me, when I came from Padan, Rachel (Joseph’s mother) died to me in the land of Canaan on the way, when there was still a stretch of land to come to Ephrath, and I buried her there on the way to Ephrath, which is Bethlehem.”

Yaakov wanted to clarify to Joseph why he had buried Rachel in Bethlehem, instead of in the traditional burial place of the patriarchs and matriarchs. He told Yosef that his mother was willing to make a spiritual sacrifice on behalf of her children. She sacrificed being buried in the Me'aras HaMachpela, in Hebron, for one reason. From this place, she could be supportive of her children in a special way that only she could accomplish. She was able to pray for the return of her children to the Holy Land.

Rashi comments that Rachel was “buried there by divine command, so that she would be of assistance to her children. When Nebuzaradan exiles them (the Israelites), and they pass by there, Rachel will emerge from her grave and weep and beg mercy for them, as it is said: “A voice is heard on high, [lamentation, bitter weeping, Rachel is weeping for her children]” (Jeremiah. 31:14). And the Holy One, blessed be He, answers her, “‘There is reward for your work,’ says the Lord,… ‘and the children shall return to their own border.’”

Men,take a moment and thank the women in your life for the spiritual sacrifices they make for you and for your children. Thank your mother, Thank your wife.

I want to thank all the women. Thank you for allowing us men to “be spiritual” in the ways that we can. We aren't as good at sacrificing our own spirituality for the greater good.

Have a wonderful Shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

Don't cry for me

After 22 years of not seeing his little brother, his only brother from his mother, Joseph and Benjamin are reunited.  The Torah recounts this beautiful moment as brothers embrace and Joseph "fell on the neck of Benjamin his brother and cried and Benjamin cried on his neck". 

The commentators tell us the meaning behind these tears.  Joseph was crying for the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem that was to be built in the portion of Benjamin in the land of Israel. Benjamin cried for the destruction of the Shiloh Tabernacle that was built in Josephs portion in the land of Israel.

Not withstanding that it was quite sensitive for them to cry for the other, why did each of them not cry also for their own loss.  Did they not each have a Temple or Tabernacle of the holiest proportions destroyed in their land portions?

***

If you have ever experienced a loss you know that when others commiserate with you, show sympathy and cry with you, your pain is alleviated.  Usually, crying is good to help alleviate your pain and suffering.  Having others cry with us helps with the pain too.  (In the home of a mourner the traditional prayer is "may Hashem comfort... with the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem".  Essentially we are telling the mourner, that their loss is a universal loss for all of the Jewish people just as the loss of Zion and Jerusalem are also a universal loss.)

This is true when we are crying over our own loss that can't be changed or someone else's loss that is not in our power to change.  Hence Joseph and Benjamin cried for each other.

When it comes to our own loss that we can change, when our Temple has been destroyed we are called upon to act!  It's not enough to cry over the loss, we must take action.  And so, Joseph and Benjamin knew that they had a responsibility to work towards rebuilding their respective (albeit metaphoric) Temples.  

***

The lesson for us in 2013 - we can't sit and bemoan the state of Jewish life and disinterest among Jews today.  If we are a bystander it's as good as if we are crying over our loss.  We have given up hope!  

The message is that we must take action.  Each of us needs to be a partner in the important work of preserving and strengthening the Jewish Temple.  Each of us can do this through little actions each day to impact our own small world and the world of a fellow Jew nearby.

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